“Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom”: Meh

Here it is, the new hymn for the World Meeting of Families.

I will say this at the outset:

It didn’t captivate me. Every so often, I really get struck by a hymn and know it just has to be done. The last time was listening to Archbishop Cupich’s installation Mass, where Ricardo Ramirez’s “And I Will Come to the Altar of God” (it’s a few pages in) just had me rapt. (Alas, it appears to be unpublished.)

It’s a little awkward. “Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom” is a nod to the location of the meeting, as is the hymntune name, PHILADELPHIA. (Why do we caps-lock hymntunes? Well, I’ll figure that out later.) The problem is that the opening phrase, which is the same as the title, is kinda awkward to sing. It does get better as we move along, but if your first line is awkward, it inevitably affects the rest of the hymn.

The melody feels too understated to me, although that might be more the recording, and it might come off better live. But it feels more like background music or a quiet hymn, and considering its use, it really shouldn’t be.

I mean, it’s not bad. It’s a pleasant enough tune and it won’t make you shriek in horror. It’s not World Youth Day bad. But I doubt it will be remembered past the meeting, and I think this was a missed opportunity.

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